Rant From The Past: Shiki

Warning: This is chock full of spoilers and walls of text.

Pearz just finished watching Shiki yesterday, and the proximity made me recall all of my thoughts on it. I first watched this anime about two months ago, and had wanted to write a review but it's from Fall/Summer 2010, which is pretty old. It's not right to review something from so long ago...!

My inner fangirl went crazy.

I first heard about Shiki when perusing 2011 anime on AniDB, and recall waiting eagerly for it to finish so I could watch it. The picture above actually pulled me into the anime; I imagined from the makeshift description at the time that it would be kind of like Ghost Hound. It ended up being nothing of the sort, instead incorporating more supernatural and gore, with some philosophy gingerly sprinkled about. Ultimately, the characters are what made Shiki, since the story itself wasn't especially unique.

Introducing Gackt as the seiyuu for the guy on the right~

A little blurb on Shiki before I begin: it's set in a backwaters-type village that's kind of cut off from the real world, where sudden deaths begin occurring in this one summer, after the arrival of newcomers in the middle of the night. The main characters are the lone doctor, Ozaki Toshio, and a high school "outsider" to the village (he and his parents moved there "not too long ago" themselves), Yuuiki/Koide Natsuno (the reason for his different last names has to do with his parents and their modern decision to not get married). The series is really about revealing the reality behind the newcomers, the purpose behind the deaths, and the village people's similarities with their killers as they retaliate, with some small attempts to discuss the ethics of the entire situation. Underneath this tapestry, this anime's biggest theme was exposing the inherent depravity of humans, which was done in some really poignant ways (such as how the villagers became blood-covered in the final few episodes, but not caring).

Gawd, this is so creepy on so many levels.

Why couldn't we see more of Natsuno?
Surprisingly, this is less of a question about the story and more an annoyance with the story-telling. Judging by the manga's chapter titles, it seems that Natsuno hasn't shown up for two volumes already. However, I'm naturally assuming that the manga is further ahead than the anime (and also doesn't use the anime's less-than-satisfactory ending), so there's a chance that Natsuno was shown more after he became a jinrou (werewolf).

The entire sequence with Toshio and his despair, lasting a few episodes, dragged a little for me, although it wasn't really that hard to get back into the story once it picked up again. I understand the necessity of showing all of that, and I see that interjecting Natsuno in all of his awesome glory at those moments would have destroyed the build-up. However, it would have been nice maybe see more of Natsuno, considering he woke up by himself and obviously had to come to some conclusions on how to live as a jinrou; it would have fit in very nicely with how Toshio, still a normal man, dealt with the madness.

It bothered me even more when I found out that Natsuno, at some point, had actually begun doing some really cool things. Judging by his actions with Toshio - biting him so that he couldn't be controlled by the other okiagari - there was a lot going on behind the scenes that I would have been really interested in seeing. I feel like it was a very useful plot point that was left unused, and it annoyed me even more considering Natsuno was pretty much my favourite character.

Hardly the three main characters.

What was wrong with Seishin? No, really.
I didn't dislike Seishin from the get-go; I had assumed that his character had a lot of potential. As the episodes wore on, however, I really questioned what his role was. In a lot of situations, it felt as though he was a placeholder for whatever character was needed. To begin with, I didn't really believe in his beliefs too much - there was a lot of doubt cast on it. Despite being a monk, he seemed to constantly question the religious teachings. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; it was consistent since he had already said he hadn't initially wanted to become a monk. I had, at first, thought that he would represent a well-educated modern man, one that would bridge the gap between science and religion.

It hurt to see him walking away from Toshio in one of his best friend's direst times of need, but I see that he hit his breaking point. He hadn't advocated killing from the very beginning. However, his actions with Sunako thereafter, especially when he became so disillusioned that he ended up going to her house, really confused me. It wasn't okay for the humans to kill to defend themselves but it was okay for the okiagari because they needed sustenance? On both sides, it's a story about survival, so it seems strange for him to favour one over the other.

I could understand him leaving Toshio because the doctor was effectively torturing his newly-turned wife. In the long run, it was for survival (more information gives them a better hope of defending themselves), but of course it was pretty extreme in the short run. However, I felt that this was inconsistent with him going to such extreme lengths to keep Sunako alive, essentially protecting her from her would-be killers. Perhaps it was the fact that he couldn't join Toshio in killing but he could assist Sunako in living, but that didn't make enough sense. Toshio - and the other villagers - hadn't actually begun mass-killing until some time after Seishin left. He could have easily helped Toshio live, too. Was it that he couldn't help Toshio after he committed such a horrendous act of taking life? In that case, Sunako's done some pretty gruesome things in her lifetime, just like Toshio, for almost the same reasons - the need to survive. But, for some reason, he walked away from Toshio, a man that he had known for so long, and sided with a little girl that showed interest in his books. It was entirely too self-satisfying on his part, and what bothered me was that it was masked by the show as a whole. What role did he serve, in that case?

(By the way, I'm aware that he killed when he turned into a shiki as well, but I won't badger him on that. That was his own personal need to survive, in a "do or die" situation, and I can't berate his actions under such stress.)

The typical little girl.

Final Words
There were a lot of questions about the anime otherwise - like, if there had only been three jinrou before the occurrences of this anime, then how come both Natsuno and Seishin turned into them? That doesn't seem particularly rare; are jinrou normally killed upon birth for their plentiful flesh, or some other strange story? - but they didn't bother me nearly as much as the ones I presented. In the end, though, neither of these two were dealbreakers; despite months having passed, I still remember Shiki extremely well, which means that, overall, the anime did do some really right things. The setting was pretty normal for a horror story - especially the concept of a "concealed in daylight" village - and the story-telling was pretty generic (with slow episodes for a while, too), but it was honestly the characters that drove this series, and they did it extremely well.